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How Much Does Google Really Know About You?  

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Technology can do amazing things for you. Smartphones give you a platform to conduct business, keep track of personal information, and find your way around.

Game consoles allow you to explore various worlds and build new skills. Software development companies like BairesDev create custom software for companies to perform their work efficiently.

But technology has a murkier side too. Many of the companies that produce useful electronic products offer them at no cost. Because you’re not paying in dollars, you may think you’re getting a great deal.

The truth is that you’re paying in another form. You’re giving these companies your personal information, which they can use to sell to advertisers who do pay them in dollars.

Facebook has received criticism for using this approach but it’s far from the only company to do so. Google, for example, retains a tremendous amount of information about you. You might love the convenience offered by Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and, of course, Google search. But you should know what Google is getting in return.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

What You Want to Know

Google keeps information about all your Google searches, including things you look for and watch on YouTube, which is owned by Google. This information enables Google to show you personalized ads from its customers that pay for this service.

If you perform searches when you’re not logged into Google, your search information isn’t attached to your account. Another way to minimize data collection on searches is to use a search engine other than Google. For example, DuckDuckGo is known for not collecting any information about you as you search.

What You Like

What you do in your Chrome browser (which is another Google product) gets noted by Google as well. For example, Google may know that you searched for “women’s athletic shoes” and then visited zappos.com, amazon.com, and dsw.com as a result.

It may know the TV shows you like or the books you read based on additional browsing sessions.

If you want to prevent this action, you can use a browser other than Chrome. If you want to stick with Google, however, you can try incognito mode. To use it, look for the menu (three stacked dots) icon in the upper-right corner of Chrome. Select it and choose New incognito window. When you perform a search in this window, your search terms don’t get tracked.

Where You’ve Been

If you have Google Maps installed on your mobile device, it logs your every movement, including arrival and departure times, even if you’re not actively using the app. You can see this log by going to your Google Account page and selecting Privacy & personalization > Timeline.

Think you can get around this data collection by using an alternative app like Waze? Think again. Google owns Waze.

Another app that contributes to your location history is Google Photos since photos are tagged with the locations where they’re taken.

So, even if Google Maps can’t always detect your location, it can put together a location history based on different types of information.

Who You Know

Based on Google Contacts, Gmail, Google Hangouts, Google Voice, and Google Fi, Google knows who you communicate and interact with, including how often you connect with those people and for how long.

Though you might assume otherwise, the company isn’t interested in all the content of your interactions. It just wants to extract facts about you that are valuable to advertisers, such as interests, purchases, and events you attend.

Your Future

Have you used Google to research an upcoming trip? Schools you might want to attend? Wedding destinations? Google compiles all this information to know what your future holds. So, don’t be surprised if you start seeing ads for resorts at your destination location, universities that might fit your profile or wedding cake bakers in your area.

Private Data

If you have a Google account, Google knows your name, birth data, gender, and phone number. From Google Maps it knows your home address as well as other places you visit frequently, such as your job or particular stores.

If you use Google Pay, Google knows who you’re paying and how much. In addition, if you use Google Photos and Google Assistant, Google knows your appearance and your voice.

In Summary

So, how much does Google know about you? A lot.

If you’re uncomfortable with all this data collection, there are ways to minimize it. Start by navigating to your Google Account page. If needed, enter your credentials.

When you’re logged in, select Manage your data & personalization and make your selections from there. Note that there isn’t a way to completely stop Google from tracking, but you can limit certain features.

The more you limit Google, the less personalized your use of it will be. It’s up to you what you’re willing to give up to get more convenience and better data.

 
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